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Top Tips on Managing Ill Health & Disability in the Workplace

Modern life can be toxic with more and more people being diagnosed with auto-immune diseases such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia.

Dealing with your employees’ illness sensitively and fairly will discourage employees taking long periods of sickness rather than staying in work because you have adjusted or accommodated the way in which they work.

Many employers fail to identify whether their employee or worker has a disability as defined by the Equality Act. This is a physical or mental impairment which has a long term, substantially adverse effect on your employee’s day-to-day activities. A medical diagnosis is not necessary.

This gives rise to the duty to consider making Reasonable Adjustments to the way in which they work.

To ensure you do not fall foul of the law, we recommend that you manage your workforce’s sickness absence in the following ways:

  1. Back to work chats, formally recorded for their file, after any ill health absence to establish what the issues are and whether your employee requires any support.
  2. Where inconsistent information is given about their illness and how this manifests, should be clarified. This may result in disciplinary action being taken.
  3. Establish the cause of your employee’s ill health in case this has been caused by workplace issues such as bullying or because they are under-resourced.
  4. Ensure a fair and thorough investigation if issues are raised which would potentially form a grievance against your business.
  5. Consider using the fairly new and unpublicised Fit for Work Service which offers a free referral for an Occupational Health assessment when an employee has taken four weeks’ sickness absence.
  6. Check whether you have Permanent Health Insurance as this would pay most of your employee’s salary if they have to take long term sick leave. This is usually more than three months.
  7. If your employee is off work on long term sickness absence, keep in regular contact and if necessary arrange to meet at their home with a friend or relative present to establish whether they could return to work with Reasonable Adjustments.
  8. If there are no Reasonable Adjustments possible, consider whether there is other jobs in your business that your employee could carry out.
  9. Only if you have medical evidence that your employee is unable to return to their job, should you consider an ill-health dismissal.
  10. Any ill-health dismissal should be procedurally fair with your employee being entitled to attend with a work colleague or Trade Union representative and with the opportunity to appeal a dismissal decision.

If you need to speak with an expert employment lawyer on managing ill health and disability in the workplace, contact our employment law team today on 01273 609911, or email info@ms-solicitors.co.uk to find out more.

About the author

Fiona Martin

fiona-martin

I lead the employment teams in our solicitors’ offices in Brighton, Eastbourne, Shoreham, Gatwick & Crawley and Croydon. As founding Director, I am also responsible for the firm’s marketing. I provide expert opinion for the press, disseminate employment law round-ups through my employment law blog and campaign on important issues such as maternity and disability discrimination. I train employers and HR professionals to be best practice managers and I am also a CEDR accredited mediator.

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